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Reviews Written by
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk)

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The Dinner
The Dinner
by Herman Koch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars "And then they came with the main course", 30 July 2016
This review is from: The Dinner (Paperback)
Narrated by father-of-one, Paul Lohman, this whole novel covers an evening out in a posh restaurant. Paul, his top politician brother, Serge, and their two wives are meeting up for a meal. At first we feel nothing but empathy for Paul as he describes the phony, stuck-up brother he so dislikes - and yet as the meal progresses, course by course, we start to see that Paul is far from a nice, normal guy...
The purpose of the meal is to discuss an horrific attack perpetrated on a down-and-out by their two teenage sons...
We see the parents trying to excuse the boys' appalling actions - Paul's wife refusing to call it murder and blaming the homeless woman as "a grown-up woman who, in complete possession of her senses, goes to sleep in an ATM cubicle." She reasons "it's an incident... that can have a major impact on our children's lives, on their future."
I really enjoyed the first two thirds or so but I found the way it all wraps up to be unbelievable and disappointing in the extreme. But worth reading.

The Breaking of Eggs
The Breaking of Eggs
by Jim Powell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars "My dam had well and truly burst...water seeping beneath the carapace into the furthest recesses of my life", 27 July 2016
This review is from: The Breaking of Eggs (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book - a gripping storyline and very intelligent writing.
Narrated by Feliks Zhukovski, a curmudgeonly elderly bachelor who has lived in the same rented Paris apartment for the past 36 years, the reader is aware from the first sentence that an interesting tale lies ahead: "I suppose that Madame Lefevre was the catalyst for most of what happened next".
Feliks, a "leftist"/ communist runs his own travel guide to the countries of E Europe. For all these years he has been regularly visiting Poland - his homeland - but has never made contact with his mother (who sent him away) or older brother (who abandoned him.) Feliks' take on his family history, like his left-wing political beliefs, are set in stone.
But his life is about to turn upside down: "I had to deconstruct and then reconstruct my intellectual viewpoint, my attitudes to the exterior world in which I lived... If this were not enough, I had to do the selfsame thing with my most deeply held emotions."...

Ali And Nino: A Love Story
Ali And Nino: A Love Story
by Kurban Said
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars "What you feel for the trees, I feel for the desert", 24 July 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Set in WW1 era Azerbaijan, this is the extremely interesting story of (narrator) Ali, a Muslim, and his love-marriage with a beautiful Christian girl.
From the very first page, the theme of this book - the duality of Azerbaijan in both location and cultural evolution (is it Europe or Asia?) - is brought to the fore. And the differences in outlook between the two protagonists emphasize the total dissimilarity of cultures.
Nino is a privileged, educated young woman, yet when staying with her Muslim in-laws is expected to remain hidden away in the harem - well-bred friends wouldn't dream of even asking about Ali's wife, Meanwhile Ali chafes at her decorating the house in western style as he realises increasingly that he is a true Muslim and a son of Baku, ready to become involved in fighting for her independence, as Russia, Turkey and England have armies out there...

There were some lovely descriptions of a remot part of the world, and I learned a lot about the lifestyle and the politics, yet I didn't really care about the characters and didn't hugely enjoy it.

by Oskar Luts
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars "Taming the little savage", 19 July 2016
This review is from: Bumpy (Hardcover)
This review is from: Bumpy (Hardcover)
Short (63p) Estonian children's book of 1920.
This is the tale of a brother and sister who get lost in the forest while out picking berries. While sleeping they are awoken by an old hag who takes them to her lair where they are used as forced labour. But as Tom becomes increasingly homesick and plots his escape, he finds sister Jenny is more reluctant to leave - she's become very fond of the hag's baby ("Bumpy" on account of his little horns) which she has to care for.
There are various themes from Russian fairytales: the animals which help the children after being kindly treated; the threat of being eaten by the witch's family. But Bumpy himself is Luts own creation.
"For a couple of minutes the only sound to be heard from behind the sheet is the smacking of lips. Then the tiny hairy hand gives the bottle back to Jenny over the side of the cradle. 'More! More!' "
Rather a sweet ending.
NB There's an Estonian movie of Bumpy ("Nukitsamees" in Estonian) which you can watch on Youtube - most entertaining even if you don't speak the language.

by R. C. Sherriff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.62

3.0 out of 5 stars "It's terrible to think of 'just passing ther time' when there's not much left and it's so terribly precious", 17 July 2016
This review is from: Greengates (Paperback)
Pleasant enough read, telling the story of Tom Baldwin from the day of his retirement from his job in insurance in the City. From the anti-climax of the leaving-present followed by the newspaper he chances upon which reports the suicide of a depressed retiree, Tom determines to spend his days actively and positively.
But as he intrudes upon the domestic routines of his wife and servant, and as his hobbies seem increasingly futile, life becomes unbearable. Until one day Tom and Edith take a country walk and see a lovely new estate being built. And suddenly the possibility of leaving their drab suburb and starting a new life seems a possibility...
Actually nothing earth-shattering takes place in this story - we follow Tom's finances, the selling of his house, the auction of the goods. But it's quite well written and a light, enjoyable read.

Offered by 123 DIRECT LTD
Price: £20.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeously addictive, 17 July 2016
You sit down to eat one and find you've polished off half a dozen!
One of the most addictive and tasty biscuits available, with the crunchy biscuit centre combined with thick chocolate and minty cream layers. You've been warned!

Alberta Alone (The Alberta Trilogy)
Alberta Alone (The Alberta Trilogy)
by Cora Sandel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "The person who has once taken life in the wrong way must finally accept life as it is", 17 July 2016
Third in the Alberta trilogy: we were left at an exciting point in the second volume, where Alberta - in an unsatisfactory relationship and about to try to launch a literary career - finds herself pregnant.
This book takes up the story six years on. Alberta and Sivert are still - unhappily - together, with their young son, and sharing a holiday home in Brittany with friends: Liesel and Eliel and war-damaged author Pierre and his wife and child. The relationships are wonderfully portrayed - Alberta's fear and vulnerability as Sivert looks set to leave her and the boy; her growing attraction for Pierre, the only one who seems to take her writing seriously; her love and fear for her little son, who can tear her heart with an innocent comment...
Returning to their home in Paris, and finally back to Sivert's family home in Norway, Alberta's future remains uncertain. But we see her finally taking steps to protect herself from the apathetic lack of action which has previously characterized her nature...
After loving 'Alberta and Jacob', I was a tad less taken with 'Alberta and Freedom'. But in this volume the author writes superbly; it's at least as good as the first volume, and I can't recommend it enough.

Myymee New Solid Fashion Women Wallets with PU Leather Luxury Lady Long Purse Black Hasp Day Clutch Bag Hot Pink
Myymee New Solid Fashion Women Wallets with PU Leather Luxury Lady Long Purse Black Hasp Day Clutch Bag Hot Pink
Offered by Taigor C Internation B
Price: £11.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of room for everything!, 14 July 2016
I really like this ladies' leather-look purse - lovely and roomy. On the one hand is a snap open coin purse with two sections. Turn it over and there's a second half with a press stud opening.Here there are five credit card pockets along the inside of the lid, and a further four on the front. There's also a spacious area for money in the centre, with a three-section purse (the back section has a zip, creating a fourth, extra secure area - maybe for your keys?) The inside is lined in a brown nylony fabric.
My only quibble with the item was that I wasn't very struck on the rather tacky looking logo stuck on the front ('Dolphin Kiss'???) But I really like the colour and the whole thing seems robust and very practical for today's shopper with umpteen storecards etc.

(free sample in exchange for review)
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A Lady and Her Husband (116)
A Lady and Her Husband (116)
by Amber Reeves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.62

3.0 out of 5 stars "Men..are not like women. They have different ideals and different standards of value", 12 July 2016
First published in 1914, this is the story of wealthy, protected Mary Heyham. Joint owner with her husband of a successful chain of tea-shops, she leaves all the business decisions to him, occupying herself with her home and family. But as the novel opens, her younger daughter is about to get married and Mary's life feels pointless...
When her daughter encourages her to get involved in the business, looking out for the interests of the waitresses, Mary finds herself becoming increasingly caught up in the girls' well-being. But as her charming but patronising husband tries to put her suggestions down, it starts to cause tensions in the marriage.
' "I've the greatest respect, as you know, for any idea of yours, little mother, but I've no doubt that it has already occurred to you that if such a very simple measure would solve modern industrial difficulties, someone else would have hit on it." He smiled indulgently.'
But there are about to be much greater pressures on the relationship, and Mary thinks more deeply about the differences between men and women and develops a new inner strength.
Quite an enjoyable read: the socialist/ feminist leanings of both the author and her writer mother (Maud Pember Reeves) come through in the subject matter.

Sebastian Needs A Real Job
Sebastian Needs A Real Job
Price: £2.28

3.0 out of 5 stars "His objective statement at the top of the resume: "the opportunity to use at least 25% of my brain", 10 July 2016
(sent free as a file in exchange for review)

As I couldn't work out how to transfer this on to my Kindle (and thus had to read it at my desk and kept accidentally losing page) I only managed the first 50% of this book. But it was not because I lost interest in the story - and I would like to know the end!

Our 'hero', Sebastian Boyne, is an overweight 32 year old with a Masters degree - yet the story opens with him being fired from the only paid job he's ever managed to get - as a waiter. Sebastian reminisces how "the months turned into years. At year three the interviews stopped happening... When ten years happened a real job became a fantasy he would talk about on drunken nights with Andy. It was like Australians talking about snow."
But with an increasingly irate father and a girlfriend who is going to dump him if he doesn't get a job within the month, Sebastian must try to find gainful employment...

There were one or two quite funny moments. I liked Sebastian's way of stopping his father attacking him:
"Don't! I don't have any health insurance!" "Well, you're lucky I don't know how much it would cost to fix an arm out of pocket."
And as Sebastian finds himself working for a vastly younger boss - "a pubescent Genghis Khan" -, we feel for his shame and anger.

Highlighting the modern problem of over-qualified youngsters being forced into Mcjobs, I found this a fairly interesting read - and I do hope Sebastian got a job!
Probably *2.5

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